NEW YORK — Doctors are reporting that people infected with the new coronavirus may lose their sense of smell and perhaps taste.
The World Health Organization is looking into it, but some experts are already saying that changes in taste and smell might be a useful tool to screen people for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. They cite reports from South Korea, China and Italy.
A patient’s loss of smell is referred to as anosmia and a loss of taste is called dysgeusia.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology says anosmia, in particular, has been seen in patients who ultimately test positive for the virus with no other symptoms.
The organization is proposing that these symptoms be added to the list of screening tools for possible COVID-19 infections.
“Anosmia, hyposmia, and dysgeusia in the absence of other respiratory disease such as allergic rhinitis, acute rhinosinusitis, or chronic rhinosinusitis should alert physicians to the possibility of COVID-19 infection and warrant serious consideration for self-isolation and testing of these individuals,” wrote AAO.
Virus infection is already a known cause of smell loss, and in some cases it can be permanent. But in cases of the pandemic virus, it looks more like a temporary effect.
For now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t include anosmia or dysgeusia in their list of COVID-19 symptoms.
CDC officials say to look out for fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These COVID-19 symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.
If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, you should seek medical attention immediately. The CDC says these signs include trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, and blush lips or face.
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